Muslim Democrats Join Party’s Soul-Searching
By Tahir Ali

 


Deval Patrick with delegates

Worcester: It had rained all week in Massachusetts, and on the first Saturday in June, 2006 nothing had changed, except the DEMs were pouring into town. The Convention Center was soon to be flooded with Democrats and Delegates alike from all over Massachusetts converging into the City of Worcester to attend the Democratic State Convention. Parwez Wahid and Farooq Mirza - of Middlesex County - were among the many delegates that filled the Convention Center.
This was an important opportunity for all concerned Americans including Muslim Americans to participate in a collective soul searching to find out a way out and forward for the Democratic Party, which, many observers believe, has lost its voice and backbone because it has lost its moorings and ideals. That loss is clearly evident from the much-discussed inability of the key Democrats – from Hillary Clinton to Joseph Biden – to challenge the Republican Party on war, immigration, civil liberties, or economy. Indeed leading Democrats including Howard Dean celebrated denial of port-management contract to a UAE Company. As reported by Voice of America “Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean says blocking the ports deal was a great victory in the war on terror.”
Many rank and file Democrats were horrified by the Islamophobic bigotry of their own leaders. The Massachusetts DEMs had come together to elect new leaders but also to find answers to politically and morally troubling questions.
The climax of the event was definitely the outcome of the gubernatorial race when Deval L. Patrick was announced as the front-runner, picking up 58% of the Delegates vote and the nomination of the 2006 Massachusetts Democratic Party. Tom Reilly and Chris Gabrieli who both got over 15% of the vote will also be on the Democratic Primary ballot in September in the race for governor.
School Committee Chairman Charles Motta, and Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey both delegates, appeared jubilant of the outcome and hoped that “candidates will bow out in favor of Deval Patrick.”
Mayor Timothy P. Murray – who had earlier in May proclaimed “Islamic Day” in Worcester – was the endorsed candidate for Lt. Governor. William Galvin, the endorsed candidate for Secretary of State, who has been in the State Government for 30 years, assured me, “I don’t take it for granted. We still have to work for the nomination.” Patrick, impressed his mission upon the Delegates in his opening remarks, “I didn’t come here today to do some backroom deal or to make a last minute rules change or to play any of those games. That’s just more politics-as-usual. And politics-as-usual is what I came here to change.”
The theme “politics-as-usual” was woven into his acceptance speech as well: “We began this journey 14 months ago because we knew that more years of politics-as-usual in Massachusetts are not going to be acceptable to the voters or the party. “Politics-as-usual says favor the insider, or favor the big money. Politics-as-usual says vote not for whom we want, but for whom the wise guys think somebody else will want. And that has failed us every time.” He then went on to say at length, “Politics-as-usual will continue to fail us because Republicans have no interest in leadership,” and hinting at the national aspirations of the current governor (Romney) and the past (Cellucci), he added, “And in the midst of all this, you see how we keep electing republican governors more interested in having the job than doing the job.” Toward the end of his speech he asserted, “Lasting change requires candor, visionary leadership and a commitment to get things done. And that’s what I mean to bring to work every day – in this campaign and in the corner office – the best that I have and the best that I am.”
Interestingly, in this regard, the Muslim Democrats are willing to name and discuss those difficult issues - war, immigration, and civil rights - that some of the Democratic leaders don't even acknowledge. Muslim Democrats can actually play an important role in reviving the spirit and enhancing electoral chances of their party.
Harvard educated Patrick, a successful lawyer and civil rights prosecutor, who served in the US Justice Department under President Clinton, was also in the Legal Defense of the NAACP. He looked directly into my eyes and listened carefully when I introduced myself as the chairman of the PR Committee of the Worcester Islamic Center (WIC) and American Muslim Alliance (AMA). I assured him of the American Muslim support and hoped he will unseat the current occupiers of the corner office that profess “wire-tapping mosques”.
I spent considerable time in the Press Room, talking to various newsmen, including Jeffrey McNary of the Rolling Stone Magazine, who took keen interest as I commented: “Our State and the nation’s economy is sinking like the Titanic, and our moral leadership is overturning like the Poseidon, we need Deval Patrick here and someone like him at the nation’s helm to steer us out of troubled waters.”
As I was walking in the rain on the flooded streets toward my car, my spirits were not damped because I saw a ray of hope for the moral rekindling of the Democratic Party.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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